Arbor Day? Yes! And It’s All About Florida Trees!

Florida Arbor Day 2019 was January 18th.  What better time to dust off and republish one of my lost articles .

Dateline: January 16, 2015*

Thrasher in a laurel oak

Florida weather puts us ahead of the April National Arbor Day planting curve.  The third Friday of January is officially designated as Florida Arbor Day (in Louisiana too!).   Tis our dry season, so I suppose we plant now to get the roots reaching deep for water before rainy season hits and makes it easy.  This helps establish a wind resistant tree since deep roots provide a better anchor system.  Also deep roots is what makes a lot of the native trees quite drought tolerant as they grow up.

You can’t beat laurel oak for providing a LOT of bird food

Our friends over the border in Georgia follow with their state Arbor Day just a month later.

Sycamores are great shade trees and lose their leaves in winter allowing the warmth of the sun to cut down on heating costs

It’s been a while since I did a tree story, so what better time?  I thought I’d just discuss a few of many species of trees at my place and who comes visiting.

Sulphur Butterflies will bed down for the night in a sycamore tree

American Sycamore or American Planetree (Platanus occidentalis) hosts some insects and in turn spiders, reptiles and birds. I’ve found katydid eggs parasitized by wasps, butterflies resting under those huge leaves and some unidentified moth larvae as well as many other arthropods.  I’m holding out for sycamore lace bugs…likely one of the few people who would be excited to see them on my tree.  Although this species of tree probably wasn’t the best choice in my Central Florida location, it has worked out well and seems quite happy to be living here.  That could be since it wasn’t shipped from some far away place, it was started in our own county (think provenance).  I purchased it from a Master Gardener Plant Sale, a great place to find local plants.  Native Plant Society sales are another great place to find locally grown stock.

Long Leaf Pines are majestic

The Pine trees (Pinus spp. ) are a favorite of so many different species of songbirds, wading birds, woodpeckers and raptors.  Squirrels like to dance up and down to snag pinecones as a snack.  My pines also provide support for airplants.

Even in death Pine trees support fauna
Laurel Oak hosted a ground dove nesting last year

Two varieties of oaks (Quercus spp.) are a favorite of nesting mockingbirds and doves.  The acorns feed the woodpeckers, blue jays and thrashers.  These trees are a favorite nesting place for insect galls and beetles that in turn attract the songbirds, spiders and reptiles.

Winged Sumac are mid-size trees and provide fruit

Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum) is deciduous with the leaf litter serving as the larval food for the Redbanded Hairstreak Butterfly (Calycopis cecrops). The prolific drupes of fruit feed multiple species of birds and mammals.  They form after the continuous blooms of spring, summer and fall provide needed nourishment for our pollinators.

Dahoon Holly provide countless berries for wintering birds

Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine), an evergreen, also provides continuous berry availability for our feathered friends and browse for others.

This Red Maple sapling started as a single leaf pair in the driveway and is now coming into its own after being moved to a better location than that chosen by the bird who planted it

The Red Maples (Acer rubrum) provide seeds for birds and is a host for moths. The spectacular color that occurs as this deciduous tree loses it’s leaves, gives this native New Yorker her needed fix of autumn, although quite a short season here.

The bluebirds enjoy the winter Red Maple when scouting for insects or warmth from the sun
Bay Trees support pollinators with clusters of flowers. The resulting fruit feeds birds and mammals

The Red and Swamp Bay Trees (Persea sp.) are making a comeback after the devastation from laurel wilt in our area.  I’ve many saplings and hold out hope that they will have resistance to this heinous disease created when invasive beetles provided a pathway for the fungus as they set up shop.  My saplings are good news for the pollinators, especially the Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio palamedes) and two other swallowtails that make use of the leaves as its larval food source.  It also is host to redbay psyllid (Trioza magnoliae) that in turn draws in birds looking for protein to feed their young.  Flowers are visited by pollinators and berries are enjoyed by birds and other fauna.

Persea sp. is the host to the Larva of the Palamedes Butterfly

Well, that sums up a few of the many naturally-occurring and human- added trees on my piece of paradise.  Florida Forestry has a list of trees although it includes a lot of species that I would consider more of a shrub, but at least if you are in Florida, you can see what a great variety of plants Florida has to choose from.

Mourning Dove with baby in Live Oak tree
A live oak provided the perfect nesting spot for Mourning Doves

If you are from Florida, take a little time this weekend to visit your local native plant nursery and choose a tree to plant.

The mockingbirds will use Dahoon Holly for nesting as well since it has dense foliage

Those of you in other regions?  Mark the calendar with “save the date” on your very own designated State Arbor Day. You could make an educational event of it hosting children and teach them how and why it is important to plant native trees.  You could take a field trip to find trees of note in your community and, more importantly, you can gear up so you are ready to add beauty, food resources and habitat for fauna in your very own beautiful wildlife garden.

Winged Sumac, a great Florida Native Plant supports many pollinators

Happy Arbor Day, Florida! (and Louisiana too!)

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on January 16, 2015 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

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